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Celia A. Schiffer elected to National Academy of Sciences

Headshot of Celia A. Schiffer
Celia Schiffer, PhD

Leading UMass Chan Medical School scientist Celia Schiffer, PhD, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences for her distinguished and continuing achievements in original biomedical research.

Dr. Schiffer, the Arthur F. and Helen P. Koskinas Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology and chair and professor of biochemistry & molecular biotechnology, is one of 120 newly elected members.

“I am deeply honored to have been elected by my colleagues to the National Academy of Sciences,” Schiffer said. “This is a wonderful recognition of the impact of our research and the efforts of all the members of my lab, colleagues and the collaborative culture fostered at UMass Chan Medical School.”  

The Schiffer lab primarily studies the molecular basis for drug resistance in viruses. Through this research, she has developed a new paradigm for avoiding drug resistance in structure-based drug design that translates to other diseases.

Her accomplishments in biomedical research have been widely honored. In 2021, she was named the chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Technology at UMass Chan. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and in 2019 was invested as the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology. In 2020, she was recognized with the William C. Rose Award from the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; in 2016 she was named by the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research as educator of the year for excellence in research, mentoring and leadership in bringing women and underrepresented minorities into science; and in 2016 she received the inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring from Chancellor Michael F. Collins.

In 2009, she established the Institute for Drug Resistance with academic and industry partners to create a nexus for cross-disciplinary research. It is the only organization in the world with a mission to foster collaborative, cross-disease research for the purpose of accelerating the design, development and delivery of resilient drugs that avoid resistance across multiple diseases and classes of drugs. Her research has resulted in over 200 publications and $50 million in funding as a principal investigator.

Schiffer joined the faculty at UMass Chan in 1998, following undergraduate studies in physics at the University of Chicago. She earned her PhD in biophysics at the University of California San Francisco, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at ETH-Zürich in Switzerland and Genentech, Inc. in South San Francisco.

The National Academy of Sciences was established by an act of Congress signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Together with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine, it provides science, engineering and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations. The institution now has approximately 2,400 active members and 500 international members.

The following UMass Chan faculty members are members of the academy:

  • Job Dekker, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Joseph J. Byrne Chair in Biomedical Research, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and systems biology;
  • Katherine Fitzgerald, PhD, the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair, professor of medicine, vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine and director of the Program in Innate Immunity;
  • Nikolaus Grigorieff, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and professor of RNA therapeutics;
  • Raúl Padrón, PhD, professor of radiology;
  • Roger J. Davis, PhD, FRS, the Arthur Smith Chair in Cancer Research and chair and professor of molecular medicine;
  • Craig C. Mello, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine, distinguished professor of RNA therapeutics and molecular medicine;
  • Victor R. Ambros, PhD, the Silverman Chair in Natural Sciences and professor of molecular medicine; and
  • Phillip D. Zamore, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, the Gretchen Stone Cook Chair in Biomedical Sciences, and chair and professor of RNA therapeutics.